All Saints Episcopal Church in Chicago


The Rev. Emily Williams Guffey
All Saints’ Episcopal Church, Chicago
13 March 2016 • 5th Sunday of Lent, Year C

Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters:
I am about to do a new thing; do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people, so that they might declare my praise.
Isaiah 43:16-21 (abridged)

I’m not what you’d call a “wilderness” type of person. I mean, I do love the outdoors. I went on a five-day hike in northern Michigan…once…the summer after eighth grade. And even though that really was awesome, since then I just have not prioritized going out into the wild as much as I have other things, like playing music, and playing sports, and getting too many degrees, and having children. But when I saw that today’s reading from Isaiah had to do with “the wilderness”, I thought I’d better brush up.

So I sat down with a bowl of popcorn and a glass of wine and watched Wild, the movie version of a 2012 memoir by a woman named Cheryl Strayed. Cheryl, after some personal trauma, decides to move from Minneapolis to Oregon and then to hike the Pacific Crest Trail, which runs from southern California up through Oregon and into Washington state.

When Cheryl begins, it turns out that even I (with only my post-eighth grade hike!) have more experience backpacking than she does. I mean, she has grown up with woods in the backyard, but hasn’t done the thing where you try to stay alive outside overnight.

But she has prepared the best she can: She has spent a couple months accumulating all the right gear – so much so that she’s not even sure how to carry it all in her enormous pack. She has researched the trail. She has mailed back-up supplies to various stops along the way, under her name, so she can replenish herself as she goes. It seems that she’s as prepared as she could be, save the experience of actually having done this before.

About two weeks into her hike, most of her urges to quit and turn around have worn off – most of time. She’s realized and remedied some of her initial naïveté – like how her portable gas stove really doesn’t work without the right kind of fuel, and how her boots (which she thought were good enough) are really terrible for her feet. Although she hikes alone, she has made friends with a few other solo hikers along the way and savors their occasional company. They give her some tips (because invariably they have more experience than she does), share stories, and mostly leave her alone, which she likes. They affirm – at this point two weeks in – what she knows from her trail guide already: that there’s a water tank ahead on this desert portion of the trail. Cheryl plans her water supplies accordingly, and – conveniently – runs out right before she reaches the tank.

It is empty. She’s about three days past the last stop where there was a water pump, and at least that far away from the next one – if there’s even anything in that one. She hasn’t seen anyone on the trail since the last stop.

What can she do, but keep going? Everything she sees is dry: dry sand, dry dirt, dry brush.

Then, she spies on the ground a glimmer of something reflecting the sun above. She runs over to it. It is a puddle. A dirty, murky, kinda smelly, gross-looking puddle.

Watching the movie, I think: “Oh, she’s so close! All she needs is water, and this is wet, but who would drink it?”

She takes her empty bottles out as fast as she can and fills them up with the brownish greenish water. She drops iodine tablets into them, and waits, and trusts that they will make this water potable.

Who drinks this stuff? It’s far from perfect, but it keeps her going.

I may not have much experience trying to stay alive outdoors for long periods of time, or even facing any kind of real physical insecurity – like with food or shelter – like so many in our neighborhood do. But I do know something – and I’ll bet you do, too – about trying to get by in new and sometimes strange places. About trying to make it another day when something – or someone – you depend on is no longer there. About recognizing I am lost and needing to take just one right step, and then another, and then another. Of thinking, and praying, along with the words of Thomas Merton:

My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so.

Merton continues:
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this, you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always, though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.

These words could have been the words of the Hebrew people to whom the Lord God is speaking through the prophet Isaiah. In the political climate of their time, these people had been displaced from their home and sent into exile in Babylon. They, like Cheryl – and like many of us, in our own ways – were quite far away from home, although in their case, not by any choice of their own. They had lost everything: their land, their families, their livelihood, everything they knew and cherished. And had they lost their God as well?

Then, through Isaiah, God says to them, “Remember me? Remember me? I’m the one who, when all you could see was water, put dry land there in the middle so you could get through. And now, I’m going to do a new thing. Don’t just look for what you’ve seen before. I’m going to do a new thing. I’m going to put water – rivers of water – in the deserts of your lives, because you are my people, and I love you.”

Sometimes, the grace we need to get through a day does show up like a river in the desert. Other times, it’s a murky, questionable puddle into which we put our iodine tablets and hope it will be okay. But always, our desire for God and what is good will lead us to what we need.

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Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Annual Meeting Jan. 28, 2018: Rector's Address

Here is a link to download Bonnie's address.

Weekly Message for February 18

Weekly Message for February 18

Dear Friends,    


How much longer will the killing continue? 
Here are some groups and activities you might consider supporting with your time and your money: 
  • The IL Council Against Handgun Violence 
  • Moms Demand Action 
  • Gabby Giffords' PAC 

  • And here's a list of congressional representatives who have received the most amount of money from the National Rifle Association. Apparently they are all praying for the people in Florida directly affected by our country’s latest mass shooting. I invite you to pray for their souls and to drop them a note wondering if God is answering their prayers. Will it make a difference? I don’t know. But, being held hostage by a diabolical association that has convinced our elected officials that it is the God-given, constitutionally-sanctioned right of every American to wander around with a semi-automatic rifle is absurd. Seems like all of us ought to start loudly pointing out this insanity.
    I’ll be at the Moms Demand Action Lakeview gathering on the 24th of February. Let me know if you’d like to come with me. Please let me know what other courses of action you plan to take to end gun violence in our country.
    This evening, All Saints’ will be hosting a gathering for the friends, family, and neighbors of our long-term neighbor John Vanzo at 7:00. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 there will be a visitation in the sanctuary and a memorial service at 11:00 am. All are welcome. 
    I’m super excited that we will finally kick off the All Saints’ Youth Group with an overnight this Saturday. Please RSVP to Hilary Waldron if your 7-12 grade child is planning on attending. 
    Following the 11:00 Worship service we will have a Newcomer’s Brunch at O’Shaughnessy’s at 12:15. Please join us!
    This Sunday, Emily will be preaching, I’ll be celebrating, and our choir will be singing some wonderfully moving Lenten music. It seems like the right time to be praying and repenting. So please come and join me.
    All my best,


    Annual Bake Auction

    Annual Bake Auction

    Dear Friends,
    For nineteen years, All Saints' has been creating an Africa Bake Auction that changes people's lives. Last year we raised over $26,000 by buying cakes that we baked! With the money raised during the auction between our 9am and 11am worship services, our young people chose to fund:
  • wells and clean water for people in South Sudan
  • a women's collective tea store, creating a place for women entrepeneurs
  • scholarships for Sudanese refugees in Uganda
  • financial aid for two scholars working on LGBT issues in Africa
  • health care for women, children, and men in the Diocese of Renk, South Sudan
  • In terms of what it buys in South Sudan, our money is multiplied by a factor of ten. And now, more than ever, our assistance is needed. What you do--what we give--helps people so very much.
    So come with your debit cards, bring your friends, bake some goodies, and get ready to make an investment in the lives of people in South Sudan.
    Susan and I will be spending at least $750 to make a difference. I'll be baking my no frills, simply chocolate, kinda ugly, really tasty cake!
    And during our worship services on Sunday, each offering that isn't marked "pledge" will be given to our friends in South Sudan.  
    Please start baking, and email a title and brief description to Polly Tangora so she can streamline check-in by preparing your bid forms in advance. Then post your amazing goodies on Facebookor Instagram, tagging All Saints' and using the hashtag #AfricaBakeAuction. 
    All the best, 
    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage

    March For Our Lives - A Lenten Pilgrimage


    Dear Friends,

    I invite you to join me on a pilgrimage to Washington DC on March 24th to support the young people from Florida who are marching in memory of their slain friends, murdered in their high school.

    I believe this journey to DC or a shorter trip to Downtown Chicago needs to be an intrinsic part of our Lenten Discipline this year. This country can no longer sigh and wring our collective hands and be lulled into thinking that there is nothing else we can do. We can show up. We can show up by the thousands, by the hundreds. That showing up begins when each one of us changes a plan and alters a schedule to be there to show we care. Because we do. 

    For DC, we’ll leave Friday evening at 5:00, March 23rd. Click here for more information and to purchase bus tickets. We’ll March during the day on the 24th. And return Saturday night so that we all may be back in time for Palm Sunday Services, March 25th. Know that the procession we take part in on Saturday will be a Palm Sunday Procession for the world and not just our church.

    I hope you can be there, with your family and friends in either DC or Downtown.

    All my best,



    Lenten Evening Prayer

    Lenten Evening Prayer

    On Thursdays, February 15-March 22, brief services of Evening Prayer will be offered at 7:00pm, with scripture, poetry, and song. Come find rest for your souls.

    Inquirers’ Class

    Inquirers’ Class

    On Thursdays, February 15—March 22, the Inquirers’ Class will take place in the Reading Room next to the sanctuary. Designed especially but not exclusively for those new to All Saints’ and/or the Episcopal Church, this 6-week series is an exploration of adult spirituality through history, prayer, scriptures, theology, church polity, and more. If desired, it may also serve as preparation for the rite of confirmation or reception into the Episcopal Church in May or June.

    The book we’ll refer to occasionally in the class is called Jesus was an Episcopalian (and you can be one, too!): A Newcomer’s Guide to the Episcopal Church by Chris Yaw. If you’re interested in joining the class, consider getting a copy to look over.

    Contact Bonnie or Emily for more info.

    Bags for RCS

    Bags for RCS

    We're running low on paper and reusable bags for our Tuesday night pantry. Please bring us your extras! 
    We will be taking donations on Tuesday evenings, M-F 9am-4pm, and on Sundays during church services. Look for the bins by the doors. Thanks for your help!

    Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

    Community Kitchen Volunteers Needed

    Tuesdays 6:15-8:00pm 

    RCS is looking for help serving and cleaning up after dinner on Tuesdays from 6:15-8:00pm.

    If you're able to volunteer, contact Emily or Operations Manager Parker Callahan, or call 773-769-0282.

    Donate to The 1883 Project

    Donate to The 1883 Project

    Please consider supporting the restoration project of our historic building. To make a donation, click here

    1883 Construction web 

    Fixing This Old Church

    Fixing This Old Church

    Here is a collection of photos of the progress of our 1883 Project. Here is a collection of bell tower photos. Check back often for updates.

    Sunday Service Times

    8:00 am Inclusive Language Eucharist
    9:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir
    10:00 am Children's Church School
    10:00 am Coffee Hour
    11:00 am Holy Eucharist with Choir


    Contact Us

    4550 N. Hermitage in Chicago, IL 60640 (Directions)

    Phone (773) 561-0111


    Information about pastoral care.



    Bonnie on Huffington Post

    Occasionally Bonnie's sermons are published on the Huffington Post. Here are some links.

    Pain. Change. Hope.

    November 15, 2015

    What Does St. Francis of Assisi Have to Say to Us Today?

    October 4, 2015

    Wake Up Calls

    September 6, 2015

    Christmas Reminds Us That We, Like God, Are Human, Too

    December 24, 2014

    The Deep Sleep of Racial Oblivion: One Pastor's Sin of Omission

    November 30, 2014

    Pulpit Swap

    The Pulpit Swap between St Thomas and All Saints is part of our ongoing effort to bring our parishes closer together as we engage in a conversation about systemic racism and how we can work together to forge new possibilities and outcomes.

    Going Home—Changed

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Bonnie Perry of All Saints Episcopal Church on October 16, 2016.  

    When Prayers Go Unanswered

    Pulpit Swap Sermon By The Rev Dr Fulton L Porter celebrating at All Saints Episcopal Church on Oct16 2016.